With a 4-1 victory over Vityaz – and boosted by Barys’ 1-2 loss at home to Avangard – Ak Bars returned to the summit of the Eastern Conference. Andrei Kuzmenko had three points as CSKA won 3-0 against Salavat Yulaev, Jokerit hit Neftekhimik for six and there were tight wins for Lokomotiv and Sibir.
Avangard snapped a four-game winning streak for Barys, and in doing so it knocked the home team off the top of the table.
A rumbustious encounter proved to be long on hits and skirmishes, but light on goals. It wasn’t until the 52nd minute that the deadlock was broken at last when Avangard converted a power play. Maxim Chudinov got the goal, exchanging passes with Andre Petersson before firing home from long range.
Barys quickly hit back. Roman Starchenko tied the game on 55:40, deflecting Maxim Semyonov’s shot past Oleg Shilin in the visitor’s net. Avangard successfully stifled the scoring prowess of Linden Vey and Nigel Dawes, but fell short of blunting Barys’ offense altogether.
The home team was determined to grab victory, and even opted to pull goalie Henrik Karlsson in favor of a fourth skater for a spell during overtime. Semyonov had a great chance to punish that gamble, but failed; the Avangard man redeemed himself when he bagged the winner in a shoot-out.
Alexander Bergstrom scored in the last minute of regulation, then again in the last minute of overtime, to give Sibir an unlikely victory.
The Swede struck with 31 seconds left, getting the vital touch after Andrei Sigaryov’s shot looped up off home goalie Alexander Sharychenkov. That cancelled out Pavel Varfolomeyev’s second-period opener, and sent the game into overtime.
This time, Bergstrom left it even later. The game was just 15 seconds away from a shoot-out when he flashed in a shot from the face-off spot and found the net via a deflection off the crossbar.
Staffan Kronwall got the decider in this one, settling a high-scoring shoot-out after a hard-fought battle in Yaroslavl.
Sochi’s promising young forward Ivan Larichev is enjoying something of a break-out season, and he wasted little time in introducing himself to the Yaroslavl public. A goal after 45 seconds put the visitor ahead in the game.
But Loko, boosted by the return of Andrei Loktionov, fashioned a tying goal in the ninth minute through its Canadian combination: Brandon Kozun had the assist, Max Talbot forced the puck home at the second attempt. Then Kontiola put the home team up late in the second period, deflecting Kronwall’s slap shot past Konstantin Barulin.
The visitor responded in the third, and Svyatoslav Grebenshchikov capitalized on Rushan Rafikov’s failure to clear the puck when he grabbed the tying goal. That took the game into the extras, and after a long shoot-out, Kronwall became the seventh and final player to hit the net and win it for Loko.
Ak Bars took advantage of Barys’ earlier slip to return to the top of the Eastern Conference thanks to a comfortable road win at Vityaz.
The home team handed a debut to goalie Tomi Karhunen, recently of Kunlun Red Star, but the new guy had to retrieve the puck from his net four times as the visitor dominated. Stanislav Galiyev opened the scoring after 17 seconds and Albert Yarullin doubled the lead in the first period before Maxim Afinogenov got one back for the host in the middle session.
The third period was a reminder of Vityaz teams of old: the host accrued 50 minutes of penalties, including 10-minute calls against Sergei Gimayev and Evgeny Katichev, plus Artyom Voroshilo’s ejection from the game. But there were no power play goals to be seen: Artyom Lukoyanov and Jiri Sekac extended Ak Bars’ lead during five-on-five play.
The day’s most entertaining game was in Helsinki, where Jokerit produced a stunning second period to squash Neftekhimik’s run at the top end of the Eastern Conference.
But the middle stanza belonged to Jokerit, and to Eeli Tolvanen in particular. The youngster already had an assist on that Lepisto goal and he soon added another helper as Jesse Joensuu tied the scores. Then he switched to scoring duties, potting his 15th and 16th of the season either side of a Pekka Jormakka strike as 1-2 turned into 5-2 and Jokerit took control.
After a goalless opening period, Kuzmenko opened the scoring in the second and doubled the lead in the 50th minute. Mikhail Grigorenko had an assist on both of those goals.
The 21-year-old’s day was not finished, though. He traded passes with Andrei Svetlakov in a neat piece of tic-tac-toe before his team-mate made it 3-0 late on.
Salavat Yulaev suffered a fifth defeat in six games, and is down in sixth in the Eastern Conference. That run of form prompted General Manager Leonid Vaisfeld to speak up in defense of head coach Erkka Westerlund, assuring journalists that there was no discussion about replacing the coaching staff at this stage.